Musical Muscle

Have you seen the size of a bass? Have you ever lifted a piano? Drums are not on the smaller end of the weight scale nor are gongs. You have to be fit as a fiddle, pun intended, to wield about certain instruments of the symphony orchestra if you are a professional, or even a novice going to class. It is not always an easy task. You do eventually get into shape, but if you are on the puny side, you may eschew certain choices and stick with the violin.

Stamina is required for more than lifting a treasured implement. Long pieces and fast paced music also take their toll in energy, especially if you perform with gusto and vitality, as dictated by the score. Music is all about interpretation and expression, so it has to be there in spades for audiences to respond. It is what separates the geniuses from the routine practitioners. It is a gift. Anyone who plays a musical instrument worth his or her salt will aspire to that spiritual realm. When it is achieved, the results are spectacular with accolades forthcoming.

How do musicians therefore get fit to perform and carry the devices of their craft? Well, guess what. They go to the gym like everyone else and follow an exercise program suited to their needs. Yes, they do reps of sit-ups, use the pull up bar, do crunches, lift weights, toss heavy balls, wield the kettle bells, and work the treadmill with enthusiasm. They know what an elliptical is. They also know it will all pay off at concert time. You don’t have to be Arnold Schwarzenegger of course, just strong enough to accomplish the task.

To get your muscle, I recommend concentrating on the arms and upper body. The following exercises were given to me by a trainer: select a pair of weights, say ten pounds. Standing firmly on the ground, life them in a parallel position overhead ten times, coming down to the shoulders in between. Then lift them straight to the side ten times shoulder height and back down. Perform ten curls with the same weights. Finally, placing them overhead touching, bend the elbows so the weights are over the upper back. Do this ten times. After one circuit, repeat one to two times more.

This can be done at home as well and a daily session will get you in shape fast. When lifting anything including a heavy musical instrument, be sure to bend the knees and spare your lower back. Never bend over with straight legs. You may be stretched out enough to do this, but why take the chance on a strain. I assume that most veteran players know all this, but I am sharing for beginners and those who are spectators only. If a musician continually abuses his or her body, it will take a toll on quality of performance. By the way, being mentally agile is also part of the process. Meditation and other relaxation exercises will keep the mind fit and fertile.